Romance Scams Defrauded Americans Out of $304 Million in 2020

Romance Scams Defrauded Americans Out of $304 Million in 2020

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People can be blinded by love. When someone says they care about you, it’s easy to overlook red flags that would normally stop you from falling for obvious scams. Unfortunately, romance scams are extremely successful: in 2020 alone, Americans lost $304 million to dating-related schemes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, one of the main problems with identifying the spread of dating scams is that targets of these scams are often too embarrassed to report the crime. This means many victims never come forward to tell their stories to help prevent others from falling prey to the same tricks.

Who’s at Risk?

Data from the FTC shows that $139 million were stolen from older Americans in dating scams in just 2020. That’s up from $84 million in 2019, suggesting that these scams are becoming more frequent. Scammers prefer to target people over age 60 online. This is partly because they often feel that older people on dating apps and social media are less tech-savvy. Another reason? Older victims tend to have more money for criminals to steal.

This means that some common dating scam tactics might not alert older users. Inconsistencies like unusual hours of activity and an unwillingness to use video chat might go overlooked by older victims.

What To Look For

Be wary of random friend requests on social media, especially from people who have no shared friends with you. If someone comes out of the blue and wants to have a conversation with you, they could be a scammer. The main tactic employed in dating scams is earning the victim’s trust by disarming them with positive attention.

If something seems too good to be true, sadly, it usually is.

Never Send Money

The best way to avoid romance scams is to refuse to send money to people you meet online. Even if you’re talking to a very charming person on the internet, you can’t let your guard down. Someone who genuinely cares about you will understand why you won’t send money to someone you haven’t met in the real world.

The endgame for these schemes always involves the criminals asking for money, typically in the form of gift cards. This is because gift cards are difficult to trace and nearly impossible to reverse, unlike wire transfers or money orders. Whenever you see someone online start asking for money in the form of gift cards, it’s time to block that person and write them off as a scammer.